Building a Home Server/HTPC – Part 2 (Picking the right OS)

This is continuation of my epic guide writing a step-by-step guide for Malaysians (and people from other countries too) on building their own Home Server/HTPC or something in-between. If you have not read my first part , kindly do so by clicking here
In this part , I would be focusing on the software aspect. Assuming that you have built your HTPC/Home Server or a hybrid. Now we want to get it to run. There are two options that we can go for either taking the Windows route or taking the Linux route. I’ll briefly explain pros and cons for each of the routes.

You can either go for Windows or you can go for Linux. For Windows , I would recommend up picking either Windows 8 or go for Windows 7 Home Premium. Windows would be an easier solution if you just want to set it up and get it running and familiar with the environment
However if you do not want to fork out money and/or feeling adventurous , there are few linux distribution that I would recommend . These are :-

I personally like OpenELEC , it has file-sharing out of the box , configuration via XBMC , low memory footprint and goodies. Going for linux means , you know that your resources can be used full-time on processing videos ,streaming content and things like that especially if you have a low-end HTPC and want to utilize it fully. Of course you have the option of getting ubuntu and installing XBMC on top of it. We would discuss more on HTPC Software in the next segment.
Home Server
No doubt that Linux is the champion in this domain because you could virtually set up a GUIless Linux pretty easily or with GUI (if you are not used to the command line). Generally people would opt for GUIless linux because it takes less memory and there are heaps of server roles for Linux – you could setup a network scanner (that allows you to share a scanner via the network) , media streaming . All of these are for free as opposed to using Windows
However , using Windows may have its perks. For instance Microsoft came up with Windows Home Server (now discontinued) which makes building home servers very easy. WHS pretty much allows you to backup your Windows machines with a click of a button , allows you to stream music/pictures via the Internet , all of this with a nice GUI and easy-to-manage tool. Alternatively you may pick up a copy of Server 2012 as well. I would probably explain one of these days on how to pick up a copy of Server 2012 for free !
As for good Linux distro which does similar to what Windows Home Server does ,you may get Amahi Home Server. Basically you need to install ubuntu or ubuntu-server 12.04 and run this amahi script. It would automatically convert and give you a cool web interface that allows you to control your server remotely just like how you would with Windows Home Server
It is much like HTPC , except you’ll have to opt for Windows 8 as it has DrivePool which allows you to create RAID-like drives for your PC that provides redundancy especially if you are going to store all your family photos and videos and also to torrent all your files in one go. It is much more easier to use compared to say Linux LVM.
But then again it boils up to down to you , for me – personally I would go for nothing less than Windows 8 for a hybrid configuration. Some of us may disagree with me saying that well-configure ubuntu would be sufficient as well.
In the next segment , I would take a look at some must have software for your home server and for your HTPC.
If you got any questions to ask , feel free to tweet to me or post a comment. I would probably share my HTPC/Home server setup in the next post or so

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